Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3)
Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Venturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power- regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path. Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows that the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Marital court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. During the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight. And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Venturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. However, in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender- even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.
Excerpt taken from book flap
Derogatory terms etc-
Curses unique to the book-
Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking
A man requests a keg be laid out.
Men possibly trade in rum.
Ale is sold in the city.
Jugs of pale alcohol are frequently seen with a group of soldiers.
Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty
Kissing is briefly mentioned.
A woman tells a man to “distract himself” in the brothels. He refuses. She claims to go herself. A man says he’s sure she has volunteers for that.
A man fingers a young woman’s curl. She fingers his jaw and lips. He feels that she wants him. He pulls her towards him, she tangled her fingers in his hair, they kiss softly, she “presses every curve” into him. He dreams of discovering every inch of her body.
A man admires a young woman’s body- her neck, legs, then wants those legs wrapped around him. He sees desire in her eyes. He unwraps her braid, puts his hand on her hip, she puts her hand on his chest. He pulls her body to his. She takes off his shirt, running her fingers over his skin. Both sigh with pleasure. He kisses her, kisses her shoulder and nips it, she moans. He kisses her multiple times on her throat, she wraps her legs around him, he lifts her and holds her against the wall, she tells him, “yes, yes.” He says there are things he wants her to do, she flicks her tongue against his ear and says to show her. She wraps her legs tighter against him, he feels her heat and it “undoes him” so he flips her onto the bed and drops onto her. She starts to move her hand lower down his chest, then lower and he stops her, saying, “me first.” He starts at her stomach then goes lower, moving with her body until she arches and trembles. They start to take off their clothes. No further details.
A woman very vaguely refers to a man’s sexuality, claiming he should love who he wishes.
A woman gets out of bed and puts on clothes. She jokes to the soldier standing guard that he must’ve never seen a naked soldier.
A man and woman passionately kiss.
A man thinks back to when he kissed a young woman, hands in her hair, her body rising beneath his hands.
A man wonders if the screams of children who died long ago are still heard.
Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood
A man wonders if the screams of children who died long ago are still heard.
A man ties a group of men in a rope and drags them. They are eventually turned to ash with magic.
In a vision, a man sees a field of dead bodies and villages burning.
There are wagons full of slaves. During a raid, soldiers are silently killed with poisoned darts and slit throats. They later fight with blades and arrows, a young woman slams the hilt of her dagger on someone’s temple. She later finds a woman who has been ravaged by torture, then she is captured.
There are stories of wraiths tearing out throats. and of people found in burned-out encampments. Wights (tiny winged creatures) destroy wagons and livestock.
Some jinn (ghost-like creatures) conjure up horrifying images of dead and broken friends.
A young woman elbows and kicks a woman holding her. One tackles the other. Then one is captured and kicks her captor. The woman slaps the captive so loud the sound echoes. Blood drips from her nose. She picks up the captive in her chair and slams her against the wall, holding a knife to her throat. She pushes it deep enough to draw blood.
A woman remembers her sister’s, father’s and mother’s throats being cut. This happens multiple times, sometimes in detail.
A man holds a knife to another man’s throat. When he lets him go, he punches him enough to bring him to his knees.
A young woman kicks a man’s leg. Another man dives for a knife, he throws it at another man’s head but misses. A man tackles a woman, they each have blades. A woman grabs another woman by the throat. She tells her death would be preferable to torture.
A row of severed heads lines a gate.
A woman acknowledges slaves saluting her, there have been repercussions (vaguely implying death or torture) for those who didn’t.
A man states if a leader needs a token of goodwill, to send a list of his enemies and he will send the heads. He then flings a dagger at people not leaving fast enough.
300 civilians are dead.
A man takes his wife and wrenches her arm. She responds as a woman who is used to violence because he regularly beats her. She regularly needs to hide bruises. He takes her fingers and slowly pulls her finger back until it breaks. She gasps but nothing more. He repeats it with another finger. She’s sweating and pale, but tries not to respond. He throws her, she hits her head. He demands a woman’s head on a spike. If he is not happy with the progress he will continue breaking his wife’s bones.
Many people are taken prisoner and sold as slaves. A leader, second-in-command, is killed. It is viewed as an act of war. People retaliate but are taken as prisoners or killed. More people are killed from the retaliation.
A man is bound, a woman has a sickle blade held over her then it is thrust into her heart. It drips blood then her body goes slack. She then erupts in flame. A man holds the dripping sickle blade and walks toward the bound man. A young woman stands between the men.
A woman finds a deep passion for wanting to break a certain man’s neck. She later holds a knife to a man’s throat. She tells 2 soldiers to protect a woman or they will die.
A sister tells another sister to kill a woman so that she will be safe.
A woman hears a man breaking her sister’s bones.
A group of refugees have all seen family or friends tortured, murdered, raped or imprisoned. A young woman wishes a man alive so she can kill him.
Soldiers set fire to a camp, threatening others to turn some people over.
An elderly man is found drowned in shallow water.
An attack killed 95% of a fleet. Many ships and people are involved, a city is under siege, a thousand are rumored to have died. A leader executed a man.
A man slits his palm in a promise. Another man shoves him against the wall and threatens him.
In a village there is the smell of death, a young child with blood on their face is alone. Children’s limbs have been blasted off, women are under the rubble dying.
A leader is hung from a rope on a wall, tortured and killed. His body is twisted and his skin tells of a slow, painful death.
A woman threatens to make a necklace of a man’s entrails if he interrupts her again.
An entire fleet of ships is killed.
A woman snaps a slave man’s neck.
A booby trap almost cuts off a man’s head with an ax.
A man is killed by more than a dozen people beating him.
A ghost takes over a man’s body, he throws a man, grabs a woman by her neck, then throws her. He attacks a man, launching himself onto his back, choking him with his arm. A woman hits him over the head and his grip loosens. A man jumps onto his back and hits his head multiple times. A ghost then takes over a woman who grabs a small child and breaks her neck, grunting triumphantly. A man throws a knife and the hilt hits her and knocks her out.
An attack on a town has men and women screaming. Buildings are rubble.
A soldier leaks blood from a wound. A young boy has a chest wound that is bleeding. A woman deflects arrows and knives then throws a knife in a man’s neck as he thuds to the ground. She notices pain in her side and sees blood everywhere then passes out. A man sees her in a dream, blood covering the ground beside her.
A woman claims to have killed many assassins.
While entering a camp, a young woman sees a body of a man, broken in many different ways. His family lies beyond, dead also. A woman is crumpled in a corner, no wounds or blood but odd angles of her limbs tell how she suffered.
A refugee camp is on fire. Some are awaken and removed, some scream for being trapped or finding their dead.
A man comes behind a woman and covers her mouth. She bites and elbows him.
A man tries to take a city by force with his army. The city backfired with fire and stone launches. All the people have been forced to leave their homes. A woman sends two dozen men to death. A leader has pyres built and is said to have thrown men onto them if they didn’t swear to him. A woman says the sea will run red with blood. A woman is handed a hammer, used as a weapon. One side blunt for “bashing heads,” one side a sharp hook for quick kills. Both ends are used that night in a battle. The woman is covered in other people’s blood.
A woman has been poisoned. Another woman threatens a man and chokes him for letting it happen.
Six people have been killed by soldiers. Ghosts are driving their kin to suicide.
A man wishes he could cut off thousands of people’s heads for their stupidity.
A man breaks his wife’s arm. He then asks if he can have a woman’s war hammer to shatter her knees. He then asks if he should shatter his wife’s knees. He threatens to cut the child out of his wife while she still lives. The woman briefly wonders if she can kill him.
A man remembers the many he has killed. The first at 11 years old. He killed because he was ordered to, or to stay alive.
A man hunts s leader to kill her with a poisoned dart.
Multiple people have died suspiciously, a woman suspects another woman murdered them. It is suspected that she will try to kill the woman who figured this out.
A man dies from a snake bite. Murder is suspected.
A man and young woman have arrows shot at them.
A man shoots poisoned darts at men to kill them. They attack him. He jams a blade in one’s throat, blood spurting. He kills many until one grabs him by the throat. He grabs their knife, stabs him 3 times then slices his throat. He stabs another in the chest and yet another in the throat. He is covered in gore. He threatens a man with gutting him and throwing him if he doesn’t obey. The man does it but is killed anyway.
A man is found dead of poison.
A mother is beaten, bruised, tortured and then hears the screams of her child and husband. A leader tells the woman she will bleed her family dry. The mother breaks the child’s neck, then the husband’s to prevent their torture. The mother is tied to a table, hot coals shoved down her throat. The leader disfigures her face with a knife and salt.
A man backhands a woman, causing blood.
Two soldiers are bleeding from a dozen wounds.
A midwife tries to kill a pregnant woman by giving her herbs that will make the baby come early. The woman asks to have her killed.
A man throws a knife at another man, purposefully missing him. He threatens to cut off his head. He then chokes him but soon releases him.
A man chokes a warning when a knife comes at him. A group of soldiers is attacked. They run and many die. A woman is tackled as she is protected from an arrow aimed at her. 425 men are dead. Blood pours from a man’s neck, gut, and thigh.
When a woman tries to kill another, the woman lashes a 5 year old slave “within an inch of her life.” The next time she tried, the woman took out the child’s eye. When this woman needed revenge, she hunted a man and tortured him enough to ask for death, so she killed him.
A group of soldiers have human skulls on their staffs and bones on their armor.
A man kicks a woman who is on the ground.
In a vision, a young woman sees streets of fire and hears screaming.
A ghost takes a man’s body and holds that man’s father in a position that makes his arms snap. Then he is thrown. Ghosts leave a dozen bodies, maybe more.
A man jokes to another that he was planning to cut off his head, stuff his manhood down his throat, or possibly watch a woman gut him slowly.
If a leader gives up a city, he is promised that the elderly will be exiled instead of executed, men enslaved instead of tortured, women and daughters taken to wife instead of raped.
A battle is starting. One group has pyres burning and live sacrifices of children and women. Burning flesh smell fills the air. Ghosts are summoned. They fill the ranks and take over soldier’s bodies. Flaming arrows hail down. Missiles are thrown, men have lost all strategy and are just fighting for their lives. More ghosts come and take over more bodies, causing soldiers to fight each other instead of enemies.
A young woman puts on soldier’s armor that is sticky with blood.
A woman clenches a bloody fist around her bloody war hammer. A child calls for another small child, digging him out of collapsed rubble. A man throws a woman and she blacks out. The children die in a blast.
A woman is found hanging from a rope, dead.
A man enters a room covered in blood. An assassination attempt is on the way.
A woman enters a room and nearly slips on the pools of blood. Many men lie dead. She finds a man pinned to a wall with his sword, dying a long, painful death, gurgling on blood. He digs into his skin, causing blood, making her swear a blood oath. He then asks her to kill him. She digs a dagger into his throat and watches the light die from his eyes.
A man circles a group of men and chokes the life out of them with magic.
Many fight in battles. One goes down, blood spraying the air red. One soldier tears down every enemy she sees.
A woman threatens another woman and traces a knife down her face.
A soldier leads her men into almost definite death. She watches their numbers dwindle to nothing. Bodies are piled high. Screams are heard as they face violence. She feels arrows pierce her skin. She kills with a fury. She later pulls off her masks that leaves her blood pouring down her neck. A woman shoves a dagger into a man’s gut only to take it and push it into a man’s neck. An arrow goes through another’s head. A woman shoots man after man with multiple arrows. She then sacrifices herself so others will live.
Many thousands died, many have also been taken prisoner.
Potentially Intense Themes
A man was killed, then brought back to life to be the keeper of souls.
There has been a famine. Tens of thousands are dead.
Small creatures called ghuls plague people and feed off their sorrow. They are invisible to most.
A large building is on fire, many are trying to escape. A man has to carry a young woman out.
Jinn (ghost-like creatures) ravage a young woman’s mind.
A woman is giving birth. She is naked and screaming, with potential problems.